Off the Airwaves with WCFM

‘Survival Sounds,’ Rubblebucket’s latest album refreshes with its energetic pop sound. Photo courtesy of albumoftheyear.com
‘Survival Sounds,’ Rubblebucket’s latest album refreshes with its energetic pop sound. Photo courtesy of albumoftheyear.com

Rubblebucket, Survival Sounds

Rubblebucket’s latest album, Survival Sounds, revives the band’s indie-pop dance brand with songs that are catchier and more dynamic than its previous work. Rubblebucket has survived largely under the radar since its first release, Rose’s Dream, in 2008 when they were known as Rubblebucket Orchestra, and 2011’s praised Omega La La. It’s time that they receive the recognition they deserve with this fall’s Survival Sounds from Communion Records, produced and mixed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Cloud Nothings), providing a great pick-me-up for those winter blues. Check Rubblebucket out if you like: Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Reptar, tUnE-yArDs or Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.

Rubblebucket was formed in Brooklyn in 2007 by couple Aled Toth (trumpet, bandleader) and Kalmia Traver (vocals, saxophone). In an extensive Facebook page biography, Mollie Traver, sister of Kalmia and seller of merchandise, explains the band’s name, and coincidentally summarizes their entire style, embodied most recently in Survival Sounds: “Rub-ble-buck-et [ru-bul-buck-it] Noun 1. A vessel in which workers collect waste materials on a construction site; ‘We need a rubblebucket for all this rubble.’ 2. A wild art-pop band from Brooklyn, NY; ‘I’m jonesing for the new Rubblebucket album ‘Survival Sounds’.’ 3…riding a mean yes wave. [a play on the no wave genre] Verb 4. The act of uncrossing one’s arms and letting loose, while strange, new feelings and sounds flood mind and body, leading to uncontrollable dancing, possible injury and definite sweat; ‘Man, we really put the rubble in the bucket last night.’”

The five-piece Rubblebucket pulls from R&B and ska influences to produce exuberant, bouncy, full-bodied tunes. Kalmia Traver’s vocals are easygoing and unwavering, alternately whispering and shouting, set against driving beats and buoyant trumpets, glitchy synth and unique drumbeats. “On the Ground” opens Survival Sounds with the cheerful plea, “Leave me, on the ground / On the ground, lord, on the ground / Let my limbs sink through the floor / Ever down, lord, to the core.” The carefree “Carousel Ride” follows with commanding bass and zig-zagging synth. “Sound of Erasing” eases readers out of the exuberance of the first two songs, with a Caribbean-influenced rhythm and lyrics encouraging self-confidence and authentic self-expression. “Rewind” feels ’80s pop-influenced, with speedy lyrics and a certain bop. The smooth “Young and Old” feels French, with twinkling keys and more sing-songy lyrics from Kalmia Traver. Its slower rhythm adds depth to the album. The most fun song on the album, “Shake Me Around” drops halfway through for a sonic assault of Traver’s energetic vocals framed around an incredible guitar solo, followed by an echo of the song’s most interesting moments to draw out the song’s best feelings as long as possible and ease listeners into the surprising ballad of “Young and Old.” “Major Roxy,” perhaps the least appealing song of the album, still contains interesting sections with an ’80s, almost Jackson 5 vibe to it. “Hey Everybody” picks up where “Shake Me Around” left off to leave listeners on a high note at the end of the album, playing with echoes by Toth and utilizing the full force of the ensemble to encourage everyone to embrace the moment. Survival Sounds is varied enough to maintain interest while preserving cohesion between songs. The album is a refreshingly unique addition to pop music of today. Rubblebucket is currently on tour in the Berkshires area — check them out! 7.5/10